Change – don’t kill- Affirmative Action

May 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Affirmative Action is as much a divisive issue in America today as it ever was. Beginning in the 1960s as part of the Civil Rights era, various government and then workplace and academic rules set out to try to right the wrongs that racial discrimination created by causing inequalities in society. Both supporters and detractors would probably agree on one aspect of affirmative action- that the initiatives would probably not still be around more than 40 years later.

The problem with affirmative action programs has been the degree to which well-meaning rules on hiring (employment) and admissions (education) have the intention of encouraging minorities and women to apply as opposed to setting aside quotas or other outwardly preferential treatment.

On the surface, supporters of affirmative action have pointed out that preferential treatment (for whites and/or men) was exactly what used to take place in society and so new rules are trying to redress past unfairness. Of course, the problem with that tact is that the persons who created the previous centuries of unfairness aren’t around to be taken to task, so that leaves a group that isn’t responsible but might get the short end of the stick.

Deep down Americans though have democratic views running through their veins and the thought of someone gaining a benefit by any other means than merit strikes us as wrong. Of course, it seems every white man in the U.S. can regale you with a story about a time he was passed over for a job by someone of a minority group. No doubt though affirmative action programs do pose a threat to whites on the lower reaches of the economic ladder and no one likes to see their position in society and/or livelihood threatened. Still, minorities and women may very well wonder whether the equal opportunities in recent decades they’ve enjoyed may ebb away if some sort of preferential treatment isn’t continued.

The courts have taken some of the steam out of affirmative action at universities by reducing minority status to one of the factors- but not the only one- in application process.

So what can we do about the impasse?

The only way to possibly defuse the tensions and rancor over discrimination and/or reverse discrimination should be by placing the emphasis on aid to the disadvantaged- whatever race they may be. Accoring to the National Poverty Center more than 1 out of 5 American children live in poverty (22%). The evidence is obvious that poor kids will probably attend low-quality schools and be surrounded by socially negative factors (i.e. crime, broken families, etc.) that make it hard to compete and succeed against peers coming from more affluent communities. States that have enacted policies which insure that a certain percentage of graduates at all accredited high schools are guaranteed admission to a public college accomplishes a color-blind goal to reward merit wherever one attends school. In a country where the gap between the rich and poor is real and growing, the best affirmative action would be to increase funding in at-risk school districts along with mentoring and extracurricular activities. Let’s raise the tide for all races by attacking economic inequality in our society

 

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